Can $46 Million Buy An Energy Monopoly? Not In California


photo via flickr

In a fight that showed the flaws in California's ballot initiative process and the sheer nerve of PG&E;, the state's largest utility, clean energy and local control has won. Proposition 16, which would have change California's constitution to force cities and counties to get the approval of two-thirds of their voters before using public money to invest in local energy projects or utilities. PG&E; spent over $46 million on the effort, which would have ensured its monopoly. Prop 16 stems from a 2002 state law, that allowed "community choice aggregation," which allows counties or cities to purchase electricity while utilities continue to offer the infrastructure for power delivery--the power lines, distribution equipment, supply natural, and even billing.

Marin County, just north of San Francisco, started the state's first community choice project in May. San Francisco is working on its own plan, but Marin's is farther along and has raised the ire of PG&E.; The system, run by Marin Clean Energy, offers ratepayers the opportunity to buy 100 percent renewable energy for a small premium, although the energy is not necessarily from the area. Instead it may be bought with renewable energy certificates, or RECs, and could come from as far away as Oregon.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, opponents of Prop 16 spent only $101,400.

More on Prop 16:
Is California's Proposition 16 a PG&E; Power Grab? : TreeHugger